Dear DRF/DRAF Grantees,
Warm greetings from the DRF/DRAF Management Team! As you may recall from our previous message in late January about the implications of COVID-19 safety precautions on the use of DRF/DRAF funding, we frequently revisit our strategies in response to changing conditions on the ground. It remains our goal to mitigate any undue safety risks confronting our grantees and their communities in the course of DRF/DRAF-funded activities, while continuing to support effective grant implementation so you can achieve the important advocacy objectives outlined in your approved projects. We acknowledge that the availability of internet, unmet accessibility needs, and other considerations can complicate efforts to work remotely. In sending our previous communication restricting DRF/DRAF-funded in-person activities, we were hopeful that the situation would improve quickly to justify lifting those restrictions.
Although COVID-19 remains a significant threat throughout the world, the context has indeed changed considerably over these past two months. The new strains of the virus that appeared late last year and prompted our previous message have luckily been curtailed by rollout of the vaccine and other factors. Thanks in large part to the advocacy efforts of DRF/DRAF grantees, vaccination access in many of our target countries is increasingly inclusive of persons with disabilities. Our Program Officers continue to inform us of changes to local restrictions, to provide updates on progress made by grantees in developing mitigation measures such as COVID-19 SOPs, and to share grantee feedback that informs our strategies. Based on this continual communication, we know that grantees in some places are eager to resume in-person activities, while others may prefer to continue working remotely for the time being. We aim to provide as much flexibility as possible so that grantees and individuals have the freedom and resources to decide what’s best for them. In response to the changing context, we have updated our guidelines, per below.
Until further notice, grantees may use DRF/DRAF funding for in-person activities, as long as they are permitted by local law, do not involve travel outside your country, and are carried out in a COVID-Safe way in compliance with WHO recommendations (e.g., individuals remain at least 6 feet/1.5 meters apart, wear masks properly, maintain hygiene, do not share objects, etc).
1. Guidance on Planning for COVID-Safe In-Person Activities
We recognize that COVID-19 conditions and governmental restrictions on in-person gatherings vary across DRF and DRAF target countries. COVID-19 Safety Plans help organizations mitigate risks to their staff, families, and communities in the course of in-person activities. The attached COVID-19 Safety Plan template [see attachments below] has been developed in alignment with WHO recommendations to assist DRF/DRAF grantees in planning and facilitating COVID Safe in-person activities. Please submit this plan (or your local equivalent if compliant with WHO recommendations) to your DRF/DRAF Program Officer at least two weeks in advance of using DRF/DRF funding for any Level 3 – High Risk activities, as detailed below and in the attached documents:
Level 3 – High Risk: Gatherings of more than 10 people, or smaller groups of people who DO NOT live in the same locality (e.g., from different districts, regions, or islands). This category may include activities such as an in-person Annual General Meeting of 30 people, an in-person safeguarding workshop for five regional branch chairpersons, or a training in a rural village facilitated by a capital-based CRPD expert. To use DRF/DRAF funding for any Level 3 (High Risk) activities, grantees must:
- submit a COVID-19 Safety Plan to your DRF/DRAF Program Officer at least two weeks in advance,
- adhere to relevant governmental regulations and WHO recommendations, and
- provide both in-person and virtual participation options to respect the choice, will and preference of individuals
If you decide to plan an in-person event with DRF/DRAF funding, please work with your Program Officer to shift budget to support precautionary measures, such as:
- PPE for staff and participants: masks, sanitizer, temperature gun, gloves, etc
- Additional venue rental budget to ensure that the size is suitable for maintaining 1.5m distance
- Costs for extra support persons
- Added transport budget (for instance, to fund taxis so participants can avoid public transportation when traveling to events)
- Cleaning supplies, and extra personnel to support regular disinfecting of the space
- A/V setup so that participants can have the option to join remotely
2. Guidance on Continuing to Minimize In-Person Activities
Until vaccination rates reach critical mass, the safest way to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission remains avoiding large gatherings altogether. While restrictions on use of DRF/DRAF funding have been lifted until further notice, grantees are strongly encouraged to continue adapting to the context. This may include shifting planned in-person events to later in the grant period as possible, and/or to consider adopting methods that don’t require in-person interaction (where relevant for the activity and constituency), such as:
- Engaging in virtual or remote advocacy (e.g., convening a conference call with representatives from the Ministry of Health to advocate for inclusive vaccine distribution, or hosting an online press conference to advocate for implementation of the government’s GDS18 commitments in advance of GDS22)
- Prioritizing pre-approved DPO Strengthening activities (e.g., holding a virtual board meeting to validate a new procurement policy, securing a consultant to set up a financial management system for the organization, etc)
- Shifting activities and budget to support additional organizational strengthening (e.g., COVID-19 SOPs and workplace safety policies, PSEAH policy development, strategic planning processes, etc)
- Developing and distributing accessible information in the pandemic context, including guides on COVID-safe supports
- Conducting virtual trainings to build rights advocacy knowledge, skills, connections; and/or to build capacities to conduct virtual advocacy (how to use social media, how to set up and facilitate online meetings and webinars, etc)
Where activity budgets are reduced by shifting to remote modalities, your Program Officer can assist you in submitting a project change request toward reallocating funds to other priorities you may have. To provide the most flexible support possible, we have expanded these options and they now include:
- Equipment purchases as warranted by staff/accessibility/organizational/project needs (your PO can provide additional guidelines)
- COVID-19 tests for staff working in the grantee organization’s office, where they are not offered free of charge by the government (your PO can provide additional guidelines)
- Additional resources to support project staff working remotely
- Other forms of COVID-19 assistance (your PO can offer additional options as relevant to each grantee’s circumstances, and we remain open to your additional ideas)
If you are planning to submit a project change request, we strongly advise that you first speak with your Program Officer — to discuss options and guidelines relevant to your project, organization, and the local context — in order to expedite the approval process. Please let me or your Program Officer know if you have any questions.
With many thanks for all that you do,
Faith & DRF/DRAF Management
We hope this message finds you and your loved ones in good health during these uncertain times.
As DRF continues to monitor the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community and the disability rights landscape, our headquarters staff remain in frequent contact with your Program Officers and are aware of the realities you’re facing.
We know the challenges are many, but so too are your capacities to overcome them; even leverage them for change. Many of you have already taken advantage of opportunities to advocate in this time of crisis. In Indonesia, grantees recently participated in an open letter to the President pushing for accessible dissemination of COVID-19 response information — and yesterday, sign language interpretation started to appear in televised coronavirus-related announcements! In Rwanda, grantees are undertaking outreach efforts to ensure that all persons with disabilities are aware of public health guidance to limit the risk of exposure. We are heartened by these examples and many more, while also remembering achievements previously won by our grantees that are evident as current strategies unfold to include marginalized groups in the COVID-19 response.
In the US, coronavirus cases are increasing and the threat has forced school closures, travel restrictions and work disruptions. While our offices in Boston are closed to minimize risk, we remain dedicated as ever to continuing our work in support of your efforts to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. We assure you that — even if our operations may require temporary adjustments — our mission and our commitment are constant. This means that our team will continue to:
- Make new grants from our pooled fund. The current RFP is still open until March 27th, and we look forward to reviewing proposals from Round 1 target countries (Indonesia, Malawi, Myanmar and Nigeria). Please visit the “For Grantseekers” page (https://disabilityrightsfund.org/for-grantseekers/) for more information, and contact your Program Officer with any proposal-related questions (Myanmar applicants can direct inquiries to GrantsConsultant@disabilityrightsfund.org).
- Ensure the continued implementation of existing grants. Those of you with projects currently underway will soon be contacted by your Program Officer to discuss your activities in light of this situation.
- Empower DPOs to seize strategic moments for rights advocacy. If your organization has identified an emerging opportunity to take action in the near term — such as the above examples of timely advocacy related to COVID-19 — please let your Program Officer know as soon as possible.
- Monitor the situation closely and be in contact with any critical updates (via email, DRF social media channels, etc). We encourage you to refer to the World Health Organization for the most reliable COVID-19 information (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019).
Thank you for your ongoing efforts despite the rapidly changing circumstances in which we find ourselves. Now as ever, your work is essential to ensure that the dignity and rights of persons with disabilities are respected.
Faith & Team